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Oct 19, 2012

Surprise Reveals an Insight into our Newest Milken Educators

"I'm just excited and I'm happy and I'm glad and I'm just gonna keep doing what I do every day for the students and for education and just thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you again!" 

— LaKeshia Ames (VA ’12)

The lamentable fact—which the Milken Family Foundation has been devoted to changing—is that educators are not used to being recognized for their hard work.  So much so, that the common thread in the reactions of all of our recipients is disbelief.  While we’d love to see the day when teacher appreciation is the norm, not the deviation, it certainly does make for some exciting moments (and videos)!  This (wonderful) disruption in these great educators’ daily efforts to improve the future for our students provides an unscripted glimpse into their lives and personalities.

Once the shock wore off, Matthew Hajdun of Champlain Elementary School accepted the award—and the rescheduling of a fun field trip to a local farm (which is why he accepted the award in jeans)—in his usual demeanor: with enthusiasm and a warm smile on his face.  Fun and out-of-the-box activities are a major staple of Matt’s repertoire.  As he told the audience of students, press and dignitaries, “Coming every day and laughing and learning together is really an awesome thing and makes it all really worthwhile."

LaKeshia Ames’s reaction was much more emotional.  LaKeshia was so overwhelmed that, as you can watch for yourself, it took the support of her colleagues to get her to her feet to accept the prize. The emotion didn’t wane one bit as she accepted her award.  It’s that same passion that she applies in the classroom, where she empowers each of her students with the title “professor” and uses everything from technology to rapping to engage her fourth-grade students.

You can’t hear them, but you can clearly see Patrick O’Neill’s first words upon hearing his name as New Jersey’s Milken Award recipient this year: “Really? Wow!”  Part of a family of educators, Patrick certainly doesn’t do it for the recognition, but his response goes to underscore just how powerful and inspiring it can be—an inspiration he’s always eager to pass on to his students.  Known for his balance of fun and structure in the class, an emotional Patrick later told the Asbury Park Press that "the best thing I can hear is a parent saying that their kid gets up in the morning and is excited to go to school."

You can always find more videos and photos, as well as up-to-the-minute information on all of the latest Milken Educators, by checking  our Notifications page and following us on FacebookTwitter and -- because nothing beats watching that geniune surprised reaction – our YouTube channel.

In this newsletter:  LaKeshia Ames (VA '12)Matthew Hajdun (VT '12)Patrick O'Neill (NJ '12)
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